Archives For Coru Cathubodua

coruSAN FRANCISCO – Members of the Priesthood of Coru Cathubodua and its allies attended the city’s pride event to offer assistance with medical aid, safety escorting, and spiritual protection. Wearing their distinctive red priesthood shirts, the members were stationed throughout the event with first aid kits and other “parade-related accessories.”

Communications chief Scott H. Rowe said, “In a time when the currents of hatred and intolerance have been permeating our national and cultural consciousness, events like Pride, which uplift and celebrate diversity, are more important than ever. In order that the LGBTQ community are free to celebrate safely, it is particularly important for community members who are able to do so to offer protection and support.”

Coru Cathubodua is often found assisting at similar events around the Bay Area. Along with Solar Cross Temple, the group also sponsors an annual blood drive at PantheaCon. The front page of their website displays the priesthood’s continued commitment to hospitality, safety, equality and justice. With regards to the weekend’s pride events, Rowe said, “The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood remains dedicated to supporting their LGBTQ friends, allies, and members with both spiritual and practical needs.”

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13435330_994220324031940_2673996563045981439_nTWH – After the tragedy struck in Orlando, many Pagans and Heathens throughout the world asked, “What can we do to help?” A group consisting of Pagans from both Italy and the U.K. came up with an idea. They call it “Wands up for Orlando.” As noted on the site, “[The project] aims are to support the LGBTQIA community and celebrate our connection as the answer to hate by sharing ceremonies, artistic contributions, poetry, photos, songs, etc.”

For their first task, the group is currently encouraging people to join with them in a ritual to honor those who died in the Orlando attack. A ritual was jointly written and translated into six languages for use by any groups or individuals. It is also not tradition- or practice-specific. The organizers explain, “We want to emphasise that, as many of the dead may have been Catholics or have had an ambivalent relationship with religion, we are being respectful of that. We performed divinations to check that the ritual would be welcome and needed.”

Where did the name come from? Fans of the Harry Potter franchise might recognize the gesture. Group co-founder Salvatore Caci explained, just as Hogwarts students raised their wands to sweep away an evil curse, “we want to sweep away the curses of intolerance and violence with the light that shines from our hearts and hands joined together and in support of one another.” Caci and the other founders hope that this ritual is only a beginning.

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imagesUK – In a vote that shocked much of the world, the United Kingdom opted to exit the European Union. The vote was close, and the subsequent reactions have been mixed. But the story does not end there, as this historic vote has left many uncertainties it its wake. Our UK news correspondent Claire Dixon has spent the weekend talking with U.K. Pagans about the vote, their concerns, and their predictions for the future. Tomorrow, she will bring us that report, along with a broader look at the situation from an insider perspective.

In Other News

  • The Bay Area Pagan Alliance was another Pagan group in attendance at this past weekend’s San Francisco pride events. Along with enjoying the festivities and supporting the LGBTQ community, the alliance also setup a donation booth through which volunteers helped bring in funds that would ultimately support their own popular annual May festival. The Alliance’s Facebook page shows photos of volunteers working at the booth and also enjoying the day. The alliance did say that, in the end, the money raised will take care of a good portion of the festival budget, but they will still need more fundraising before spring 2017.
  • New York Pagans are getting ready for their annual summer event. The 5th Annual WitchsFest USA is a popular “street faire” held in the heart of Manhattan’s West Village on Astor Place between Broadway and Lafayette. The faire includes presenters, performers, vendors and more. Last year’s WitchsFest was attended by Vice reporter Farah Al Qasimi, who shared colorful and dazzling photos of many of the attendees.
  • T. Thorn Coyle continues sharing her voice successfully through her fiction writing. One of her short stories, titled Salt, was recently selected to be included in an urban fantasy book bundle along with nineteen other books that explore the “hidden magic in everyday life.” Coyle’s story, about “a ghost-talking, magic-wielding, leather daddye,” was originally part of her “free fiction” series supported by her readers through Patreon. Coyle is also the author of the novel Like Water as well as several non-fiction book on Witchcraft, spirituality and daily practice.

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  • The Many Gods West conference is coming up in just over one month. It is in its second year and one of the few annual indoor conferences held over the summer. It bills itself as a “gathering for polytheists.” This year’s event features Marcella “Allec” McGuire, Sean Donahue, and L. Phaedrus. There will be no keynote speaker, as the organizers explain, “We have forgone the keynote speaker model in order to encourage the event to grow as a gathering of peers.” Many Gods West is held in Olympia, Washington from Aug 5-7.
  • Starhawk announced that she will be giving away two special edition autographed copies of her new book City of Refuge. To enter the drawing, fans only need to “like” the post and post a quote from any of her books into the comments section. The two winners will be drawn and announced on July 1. Starhawk has also listed all the rules and regulations on her website.
  • Speaking of summer reading, Lewellyn Publishing will be releasing two new books in July, both of which may be of interest to many of our readers. First, Witch and priestess Lasara Firefox Allen shares “a new system that embraces the powerful, diverse, and fluid nature of the lived experience of women today” in her book Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality. Second, Devin Hunter’s The Witch’s Book of Power explores “the secrets to unlocking the Witch power within you.” He includes exercises, meditations and practices.
  • If that is not enough to fill your days, Weiser published Judith Illes how-to guide called The Big Book of Practical Spells: Everyday Magic that Works.  And, Moon Books has just released Morgan Daimler’s Fairycraft: Following the Path of Fairy Witchcraft, and Rachel Patterson and Tracy Roberts’ book titled, Arc of the Goddess. 
  • Lastly, Treadwell’s conference exploring the 1980s Satanic Abuse panic is coming up Tuesday, July 5. With the help of six speakers, attendees will explore the history and psychology behind the moral panic that gripped the UK and many other parts of the world.  Discussions will also include “what it was like for Pagans, and then how it ended after researchers and investigative journalism got involved.”

OAKLAND, Calif. — Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, California’s Bay Area played backdrop to a number of different events as part of the second annual #96Hours action organized by the Anti Police-Terror Organization. Many of these events were attended by local Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens. The weekend action, consisting of everything from protests to vigils, culminated in a march through the city of Oakland.

March through Oakland and Emeryville 2016 [Courtesy R. Smith]

March through Oakland and Emeryville 2016 [Courtesy R. Smith]

T. Thorn Coyle, who had been involved with the Anti Police-Terror Organization all year, helped to coordinate the first #96Hours action in 2015. This year was no different. In an email, Coyle told The Wild Hunt, “It is important to us that we honor the radical legacy of Dr. King – as called for by Black leadership – rather than upholding the whitewashed and sanitized Dr. King that so much of white America insists on remembering. King grew more and more radical before his death, when he had close to 30% approval among white Americans. This is around the same amount of approval white Americans currently give to Black Lives Matter and anti police brutality movements. We need to rethink what we value in this country. As a Pagan, I value justice, beauty, equity, and love. I try to act towards those qualities and join in community with others who uphold them.”

As she noted, the #96Hours action is part of a larger movement to reclaim Martin Luther King Jr.’s radical legacy. The common hashtag being used is #ReclaimMLK.

The Oakland #96Hour weekend events began on Friday, Jan. 15 with 7 am meditation and, then, continued on from there. At 4 pm, Coyle participated in the “Can You See Me?” Interfaith Procession in Remembrance of Black Lives in Oakland. As she described, the service was led by a Rabbi, Imam, and two Christian ministers, with Buddhists leading meditation. Then, there was a processional of nine coffins, representing those killed locally by police in 2015. That ended at Lake Merritt, where a tenth coffin was floating to represent those people whose names were not known.

While at the lake, Coyle led the group in song and prayer, asking them “to call upon the ancestors and [their] beloved dead, naming those killed by police.” She explained that “Pagan and polytheist traditions it is important to many of us to remember and call upon our beloved dead, asking them to walk with us.” 

#96Hours Interfaith Service [Photo Credit: Mollie Costello]

#96Hours Interfaith Service [Photo Credit: Mollie Costello]

Brennos Agrocunos, Vice Chief, Coru Cathubodua Priesthood, was in attendance at the Friday evening service. He said, “We choose to stand alongside local Black Lives Matter activists as an act of service to our Gods, our ancestors, and our communities. As Coru priests committed to core values of sovereignty, kinship, warriorship, and service, one of the ways we enact these values is in the streets standing shoulder to shoulder with members of all faiths in our communities, calling for justice and an end to oppression, and providing medical and logistical support to other activists.”

Agrocunos and other members of Coru Cathubodua were also in attendance at Saturday’s action at the Oakland airport. Starting 6 p.m., terminal passengers were “greeted by activists chanting the names of People of Color killed by the police in the Bay Area, holding signs reading ‘Welcome to Oakland.’ ” This same action was then repeated on Sunday at the San Francisco airport, a much larger and busier facility.

Morpheus Ravenna, Lore Chieftain, Coru Cathubodua Priesthood said, “In the San Francisco Bay Area, nonviolent Black Lives Matter demonstrators have often been met with excessive force and violence. We find that the presence of clergy people acting in solidarity can help protect the community while underscoring the moral and spiritual imperatives of the movement.”

Oakland Airport Action [Courtesy Brennos Agrocunos ]

The events noted above were only a few of the many that were organized over the 96 hour period that culminated in a Monday march through the streets of Oakland. This final action attracted the largest Pagan, Polytheist and Heathen contingent, many of whom walked behind a large banner reading, “Pagans United for Justice.”

Kristen Oliver and Rose Quartz of the Mills College Pagan Alliance were two of those walking. Oliver said, “Rose and I went to the march to honor MLK and stand with the people who he died to raise up who are still dying in our streets. I have always been an out and proud Pagan and so was happy to join the group of Pagans marching today under the ‘Pagans United for Justice’ banner. As someone who works to raise the visibility of Pagans in the public eye I have always said I would love to see more of our community out there working for social justice. And yet I have to admit that today I felt a bit disingenuous about identifying myself as anything other than just a person who wants humanity to learn to understand each other and stop hurting each other. Dr. King’s legacy and the Black Lives Matter movement is far too important to dilute or hijack with personal agendas and yet it is so important to show that support comes from many different places. I am still grappling with this question of intention tonight.”

Marching along side the Oliver and Quartz were members of Coru Cathubodua, Solar Cross Temple, Golden Gate Kindred, Reclaiming and more. Ryan Smith of the Golden Gate Kindred posted on Facebook: “Our kindred puts our words into action!”

Pagans March [Courtesy Brennos Agrocunos]

Oakland MLK March 2016 [Courtesy Brennos Agrocunos ]

Beginning around 11am, marchers walked from “Oscar Grant Plaza,14th & Broadway, to the Bay St Mall in Emeryville” and were reportedly close to 1000 people strong.

Then, as the march neared its end, an unscheduled action took place on one side of the Bay Bridge. Around 4 pm, 25 Black Lives Matter protesters stopped a line of cars, chained themselves and the cars together, blocking the entire side of the road. Their original intent was to remain in that position for 96 minutes in honor of the #96hours of action. However, the protesters were only there for 30 minutes before being arrested. The entire event was reportedly peaceful.

The #96Hours and, more specifically, the #ReclaimMLK actions were not limited to the Bay Area, attracting attention and inspiring action throughout the country. While the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend is now officially over, the #ReclaimMLK movement will undoubtedly continue into the future as more groups and people, from all walks of life, join and support this growing social justice movement.

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[Photo Credit: 22860 / Flickr]

Today, the U.S. honors Martin Luther King Jr. Public schools, government offices and many businesses are closed in order to recognize his work and sacrifice, as well as the staggering influence that his message has had on American society. Many Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens across the country are participating in local activities, both small and large, to recognize Dr. King and his influence.

Some choose to honor his work within the privacy of their practice. For example, T. Thorn Coyle noted that “Solar Cross Devotional will honor the legacy of Dr. King, focusing on economic and racial justice.” However, many others are attending larger public community events such as the second annual #96Hours action held this weekend in California’s Bay Area.

Organized by the Anti Police-Terror Organization, the #96Hours event consists of a weekend of scheduled actions, including protests, interfaith vigils, rallies and other activities, culminating in a march through the city of Oakland. Groups and individuals participating in the various activities include members of Coru Cathubodua, Solar Cross Temple, Golden Gate Kindred and more. Brennos Agrocunos, Vice Chief, Coru Cathubodua Priesthood said, “As Coru priests committed to core values of sovereignty, kinship, warriorship, and service, one of the ways we enact these values is in the streets standing shoulder to shoulder with members of all faiths in our communities, calling for justice and an end to oppression, and providing medical and logistical support to other activists.” We will have more details, including photos, tomorrow.

While King’s words and his life had a very specific purpose during a very tumultuous period in U.S. history, over time his message has been distilled down and come to permeate U.S. culture with a meaning that far exceeds the focused goals of that particular decade. In the wake of this past year’s events, King’s message appears to be returning with such a force, in many ways, to its very origins, regaining a new vitality and forward momentum. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. – Dr. Martin Luther King, a Letter from Birmingham Jail

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sharon knightOn Jan. 23, musicians Sharon Knight and Winter will be awarded the Lost Chord Award by the Society for Ritual Arts (SRA) in Berkeley, California. They are being honored for production of The Portals Project. As explained on the website, “Our honorees combine a love of antiquity and romance with an affinity for the haunting and melancholy, adding a hearty dash of feistiness, and reminding us that we can all see the world through the eyes of enchantment.”

Organizers go on to say, “The Lost Chord Award is given annually […] to a musician or musical group for work that embodies the mission of the Society – to inspire a spiritual sense of wonder, awe or connectedness.” Knight and Winter will be the organization’s first honorees.

The ceremony will be held at the Northbrae Community Church in Berkeley, California. It will begin with a meet-and-greet at 6pm, which will be followed by performances by harpist Diana Rowan, fiddle player Michael Mullen, indie band Imager, singer Margaret Davis, and Hungarian shaman Ivan Szendro. The convocation will be given by Chief Luisah Teish and keynote by author Diana Paxson.

Tickets are available on the event site, and all proceeds got to Knight and Winter’s Portals project and to the SRA. For those not in the area, SRA also plans on streaming the event.

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2000px-Pentacle_on_white.svgIn October 2015, Elder High Priestess and founder of the Gaia Group Crystal Tier died, after a long life of dedication to spiritual exploration and leadership in the New Jersey Pagan community. Crystal was born into a New Jersey musical family as Christine Gittler. She loved animals and reading and, due to a transient lifestyle, was often the caretaker of her younger siblings.

In her teens, Christine began her spiritual journeying, moving to Italy to join a rigorous Benedictine order of Catholic nuns called the Disciples of the Divine Master. When the order didn’t appeal to her, she returned to the U.S. to study with another group called the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Although she didn’t take her final vows, she was able to teach in schools across the country.

However, by the 1970s, Christine’s spiritual life took a turn. She began studying with Raymond Buckland’s group on Long Island and, while there, she met her life partner Roger Tier. Together, the two eventually founded their own magical tradition called The Gaia Group, and grew to become vocal environmental and political activists, which led to the creation of The World Peace Network. Christine and Roger continued this public work over the following two decades.

In her later years, Christina suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and spent much of her time studying yoga, knitting and writing letters. Her husband Roger died suddenly on Samhain 2011, and her own disease only worsened, leaving her crippled with pain. On Oct. 9, 2015, Christine died peacefully in a New Jersey nursing home. High Priestess and friend Francesca Ciancimino Howell said, “Crystal was an enlightened, truly awake soul. We of The Gaia Group and The Temple of Gaia were privileged to have known her as Initiator.” What is remembered, lives.

In Other News:

  • Immanion Press has released the long-awaited book: The Pagan Leadership Anthology: An Exploration of Leadership and Community in Paganism and Polytheism. Within its 340 pages, this new anthology, edited by Taylor Ellwood and Shauna Aura Knight, includes 30 essays by 30 different authors, who share “their failures and successes as leaders as well as [show] you how you can become a better Pagan leader.” The book is available directly through the Immanion Press website.
  • In February, Starhawk will be in New York City to facilitate a workshop and ritual with BrightFlameThe event, called Stories for the Future, will “explore our ancestral and personal stories,” culminating “in a powerful ritual of collective myth creation.” Organizers explain, “Stories shape our imagination and our ideas of the possible. How can we use the power of story to help us envision a positive future, and inspire people to want to work towards it? Stir in a little magic–the art of shaping and shifting consciousness, of connecting with the deep creative energies of nature, bending time and opening awareness.” Starhawk will also be available to sign copies of her new book. Stories for the Future will take place on Saturday, February 20th in the Westbeth Community Center.  Tickets are on sale now.
  • Green Egg Magazine has announced that it is currently seeking submissions of “original works, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, politics, art, photography, and music,” for the 2016 Spring issue. Editors are also asking any authors who would like their books reviewed to contact them via email. The announcement reads, “We’re looking for writers with knowledge and experience in any issue that is of interest to Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, etc.”  Green Egg Magazine was founded by Oberon Zell in 1969.
  • Two conferences are quickly approaching. In Claremont, California, the Conference of Current Pagan Studies will open its doors on Jan. 23. “This academic conference welcomes the community to be part” of the effort to demonstrate that Pagan Studies is “a legitimate field of study.” Then, on the following weekend on Jan 29, EarthSpirit’s Feast of Lights will welcome its guests to Amherst, Massachusetts. “A Feast of Lights is weekend of warmth at the coldest time of the year – a festival of Earth spirituality and the arts, of community and hope, of tradition and creativity.”
  • For our readers in Australia, the Tasmanian Pagan Alliance is preparing for its upcoming annual Harvest Festival. The event includes “Workshops, Bread Making, Craft Activities, Bardic Circle, Communal Harvest Altar, Ritual, Feasting, Dancing and Trade Table/Market Stalls.” This year’s theme “Celebrating the sweetness of the Wild Harvest.” Harvest Festival 2016 will be held Jan 29 – 31 in Forth, Tasmania.
  • And, lastly, we say goodbye to British actor Alan Rickman. What is remembered, lives.

alex marWhen I first learned of Alex Mar’s book, Witches of America, I was eager to read it. Considering my own studies in Witch and Witchcraft representations, I was interested in her take on the subject. Before the book’s release, I had absolutely no externally-derived expectations, and my limited contact with Mar did not reveal the nature of her project. Therefore, I assumed that this book would catalog or survey the practice of Witchcraft in modern America. And the title appeared to corroborate this assumption. However, I soon learned that I was unequivocally mistaken. The book was a memoir.

Over the past month since its release, Witches of America has been reviewed and discussed many times over. On the one hand, mainstream coverage has ranged from the moderately critical to the highly positive. New York Times reviewer Merritt Tierce loved it, and the news giant recently placed the book on its list of Top 100 Notable Books of 2015. The magazine Marie Claire has also listed the book on its 2015 top Book-Club picks. At the same, an NPR reviewer was not quite as enamored with Mar’s work, saying, “Some of these disappointments, I’ll admit, come from finding the cultural research aspect of the book more engaging than Mar’s personal journey.”

On the other hand, Pagan reviews and blog discussions have ranged from the negative and highly critical to the more moderately critical. At Patheos, channel manager Jason Mankey discusses the limitations of the study itself, saying, “One would expect a book entitled Witches of America to be about Witchcraft as practiced in the United States, but it’s not really about that. As a practicing Witch for the last twenty-two years there was very little I identified with in the book.” 

One of the first and most scathing reviews, which was eventually quoted in a later Guardian article, was published at Gods and Radicals. Editor Rhyd Wildermuth calls Mar a “spiritual tourist” and writes:

… her book offers a sordidly pornographic and self-aggrandising narrative disguised as an elucidating look into the way witchcraft is practised in the United States.  Belonging alongside a 1980s issue of National Geographic (we’ll get to the pendulous breasts in a bit), exploitative British-tourist narratives and freak-documentary, Mar’s book tells the tale of her search for authentic witchcraft in the most ‘extreme’ of American Pagan experiences …

Other Pagan bloggers spoke out, including John Halstead, John Beckett, David Salisbury and Segomâros Widugeni. Of these four particular reviewers, only Salisbury, who is mentioned in the book, offered a moderate response. He wrote, “There are some things that are problematic with Witches of America. There are also things that are problematic with just about every single book portraying witches that I’ve ever read in my 16 years on this path.” He later admits, “And while everyone has a right to how they feel, this doesn’t make me feel exploited. It makes me feel like a witch.”

Through these writings and the social media discussions, it seems that the Witches of America do not like the Witches of America. And, this point was noted by the Guardian writer who asked, “Serious researcher or ‘spiritual tourist’? How Alex Mar riled America’s pagans”

As I read through the book myself pushing past my original expectations, I wondered how I could possibly write a fair review of a book whose major players were people that I knew in some way. How do I evenly discuss the book when I am personally invested in some the content? This became the challenge and, originally, I opted not to write a review at all.

However, I changed my mind, because there is a particularly interesting issue that is raised by the publication of the book, not by the content within the book itself. It is an issue that is touched on by several of the bloggers, and affects more than just Mar and those people mentioned in her story. It is one that we face regularly at the Wild Hunt, and I’m certain that many other writers do as well.

How do writers navigate the blurred lines created between public and private speak when the professional mixes with the personal?

Before diving into to that issue, I’ll do a quick rundown of the book. Alex Mar’s Witches of America is a personal memoir written for general audiences. It was not specifically meant for the Pagan or Witchcraft communities highlighted within its pages, or any for that matter. However, Mar’s journey, regardless of her underlying purpose, does provide ample detail, which may intrigue even a long-practicing Witch.

In other words, Mar is not providing a Witchcraft 101 experience for new seekers. Nor did she create an educational tool for non-Pagans. As mentioned earlier, it is simply a memoir – one woman’s experience, opinion and approach.

With that said, I found Mar’s writing style, which is somewhat clinical and journalistic, to be uncomfortable in that genre. Her tone creates an emotional distance, even when she describes the most intensely personal revelation. At the same time, her style works and is more settled in the sections in which she offers historical fact or other background data. And, aptly, these were the most engaging for me.

Another disappointment was the lack of bibliography. As an academic writer and journalist, I want my nonfiction to marinate in proof, data sets and extra source material. This is partly a personal problem, and the memoir genre does not demand such background information. But it would have been nice, considering that the book was written for general audiences. For example, if a non-Pagan wanted more information on Gerald Gardner’s history, Mar could have provided a list of credible sources.

But once again, this is a memoir, and I kept telling myself to just keep reading and stop looking for endnotes.

Looking closer at this memoir aspect, I can’t criticize Mar for her spiritual experience. I wasn’t there. I don’t what is real and what is opinion. Was she being honest or was she a spiritual tourist? I’ll leave that speculation to the bloggers and reviews listed above. I recommend reading them all for various opinions on the issue.

However, I did reach out to Mar and asked if the main players knew that she was writing a book. Mar told me, “I was very open about it in general, and was never ‘undercover’ — that’s another approach to reporting, but it’s not one I took with this book or with my previous magazine stories. It wouldn’t have made sense here, as my goal was never to write an exposé, but to create a portrait of a slice of the Pagan community while also documenting my own spiritual exploration.”

Salisbury’s blog post confirms that. With regards to her intent, he wrote, “Did you not know that she was a journalist writing a book with the bent of a memoir? That seemed highly obvious to me, as someone who basically lived with her for a week.” A recent public statement by Coru Cathubodua also corroborated this statement.

Throughout the book, Mar hops around to a variety of different religious groups, events and spiritual practices, experiencing initiations, workings, magic and ritual. As noted in detail by Mankey, Mar does not catalog the entire American Witchcraft community, as if that was even possible. The book focuses on several specific traditions, predominantly Feri and Thelema. Her travels were limited to New Orleans, New York, Massachusetts, and Northern California. However, she does spend some time at Pagan Spirit Gathering and at PantheaCon.

As she told me, her intent was to offer a “portrait of a slice of the Pagan community,” and she did that. However, the title itself sets an expectation of something greater, which then becomes part of the problem. Witches of America does not represent the Witches of America. It represents Mar’s journey engaging with a small fraction, a slice as it were, of greater diversity. That’s okay. But the results don’t meet the expectations set by the title, which may account for the wide gap between the mainstream and Pagan reviews. Non-Pagans don’t understand that point and don’t care; Pagans do.

Now returning to the issue of privacy and professionalism, Mar recounts some very detailed initiation rites, rituals and educational workings. She also published direct email communications with several of her contacts. Almost unanimously, the Pagan reviewers point this out, citing that she violated people’s privacy and overstepped spiritual boundaries.

I had to know. Were these accusations correct? Did she violate a trust or was she given permission to print the data presented? I reached out to a number of the players within the book, including Karina, Morpheus, the New Orleans OTO group and Coru Cathubodu. Both Karina and the OTO declined to comment. In the Coru statement, representative Scott Rowe answered this very question. He said that, in a phone agreement, Mar offered the group review rights before publication. With that understanding, as Rowe explained, [the] “gave Ms. Mar access to individual members for interviews. She attended public events and hospitality. She was never invited to nor was she present for any private Priesthood rituals.”

Then, according to Coru, the agreement was rescinded. Rowe said, “The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood would have declined to participate in Ms. Mar’s book from the start without the agreement that we would be able to provide corrections and redaction where necessary to protect our members’ personal and religious lives, and ensure our beliefs and public writes were correctly depicted.” Rowe stated that the book has caused some direct harm to its members and community, adding “We cannot, will not and do not stand by it.”

I reached out to Morpheus and asked the same question. Did Mar violate your trust? She simply said, “I do not endorse Alex Mar’s book and I share the position of the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood in this.”

An interesting point to note within Coru’s response is the issue of intent and damage. Rowe said, “We believe that Ms. Mar was sincere in her religious and spiritual exploration at that point, and in her intent to craft a book that would benefit our community. However, this book is not a boon to the Pagan and Polytheist communities. Ms. Mar’s intentions matter very little in light of the consequences of what she chose to write.”

This comment brings us back to the initial dilemma of privacy. Assuming, as Coru does, that Mar was genuine in her spiritual seeking, then the problem lies with the overstepping of boundaries, intentionally or not, in the presentation of her experience. And this issue can lay at the heart of anyone attempting to publish works on their spiritual endeavors. How do writers navigate the lines created between public and private speak when the professional mixes with the personal?

We regularly experience this problem at The Wild Hunt. Our writers are integral and welcome parts of many local and national Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist communities. We are at events and in rituals; we are real-time friends and family members; we are even neighbors. Each of the Wild Hunt writers has a very personal, spiritual and emotional stake in their community. At the same time, we are also professional journalists and columnists, who genuinely want to provide a service. As a result, the lines can become blurred between work and play. It is on us, as writers, to be ever vigilant in distinguishing which role we are playing when and to draw clear lines for the sake of safety, integrity and ethics – both personal and professional.

Wild Hunt writers aren’t the only ones in this proverbial boat. Bloggers will face the same dilemna. What can you publish? What can you talk about? But the onus is not only on the writers to maintain clarity. In a world of social media, we all part of the public voice. What you publish in your feeds can be subject to the same issue. What is public and what is private? And where and how do we clearly draw the lines?

Rowe advises, “We would like our experience to be the final lesson to other Pagans and Polytheists on the potential challenges and ramifications of dealing with the mainstream media. Journalists are always on the record and what you say will be used in whatever light the writer finds most advantageous to the story she wants to tell, whether it’s true or not. Before speaking with mainstream journalists, make sure to get all agreements detailed in writing.”

Doing this with anyone, mainstream or not, is a good idea. It is something that I talk about in my own Public Relations workshops. Unblur those lines, or draw them, in order to ensure that what is being said privately doesn’t end up on the front page, in a blog or on Instagram. Monitor closely your navigation of the professional and the personal.

As for Mar’s book, I am troubled by any violations of privacy. As editor of The Wild Hunt, as a writer and member of this community, I take that issue very seriously and acknowledge the frustrations and anger felt by those involved.

Setting that discomfort aside, I will add that I did find elements of the book interesting. As with Mar, I grew up in New York City metro and came to Paganism through the eyes of a skeptic. Some of her personal questioning reflected some of my own early doubts about ritual practice, magic and religion. However, as a whole, Witches of America was neither here nor there for me. But then again, that’s another personal problem. I generally don’t read memoirs

… and I need a bibliography.

wild hunt buttonToday we are starting off with a big thank you to everyone who supported the 2015 Wild Hunt Fall Fundraiser. Whether you donated, shared our link, told people about the service or any other effort, the Wild Hunt team is grateful to each of you.

It came down to the last few hours but we managed not only to reach the goal but to exceed it. While we do not have the final figures at this point, the total raised is pushing $20,000. That number is higher than previous years.Thank you deeply to everyone for making it possible for The Wild Hunt to continue its service with room for new growth.

What can you expect in the coming year? First…more of what you have come to expect. Our columnists will be returning on their regular days to explore and discuss the issues of the day. We currently have a full lineup of weekend writers including, Rhyd Wildermuth, Manny Tejeda-Moreno, Eric Scott, Lisa Roling, Dodie Graham-McKay, Cosette Paneque, Christina Oakley-Harrington, Crystal Blanton, Alley Valkyrie and our newest columnist Heathen Chinese. Both Valkyrie’s and Wildermuth’s columns will continue to be sponsored by Hecate Demeter, who has been supporting their work for over a year. And, new this year, Blanton’s column will be sponsored by CAYA Coven, whose organizers wrote, “In celebration of the wisdom and achievements of Pagan Women of Color, CAYA Coven is proud to sponsor Crystal Blanton’s Wild Hunt column this year.”

Also returning will be our two hard-working weekly journalists: Cara Schulz and Terence P. Ward. They will continue to cover the news as it happens, as well as broader news topics. Additionally, we welcome Yeshe Matthews as our Strategic Planning Director. We are thankful to her for running our 2015 Funding Drive and look forward to her continued work as a member of the Wild Hunt team.

But what about the growth? As always, we welcome news voices and interesting stories for our guest columns. We will continue that tradition and invite writers to submit pitches and stories. We also welcome press releases, letters to the editor and news tips. Outside of that, we will undoubtedly continue to evolve over the year and will announce any exciting changes in that process as they happen.

For now, we are taking a moment to pause hold this space and simply say thank you.

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1272196_1504315986498225_3499266264717747598_o-e1417450132408-500x447In Sept, Niki Whiting announced that Many Gods West (MGW), the Polytheist conference held in Washington State, would be returning. This week Whiting announced the event dates would officially be August 5-7. Additionally, the key address will be delivered by Sarah Anne Lawless, a professional artist, writer, folk herbalist and sole owner of the new shop Fern and Fungi. Whiting said, “[Lawless] approaches polytheism through animism, herbalism, and witchcraft. It will be an interesting contrast to last year’s excellent keynote.” The well-received 2015 address was given by Morpheus Ravenna.

It was also clarified that the MGW conference will be held at a different hotel than last year. Organizers say that it is “bigger and better.” But the location will still be Olympia, Washington, which is located approximately 60 miles south of Seattle. As reported earlier, the opening and closing rituals will be hosted by Rynn Fox of Coru Cathubodua. Registration and tickets go on sale Tuesday of this week. Whiting also added that further details are coming soon. For those interested, follow the Many Gods West Facebook page.

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As reported in several mainstream news sources, psychic witch Lori Sforza, also known as Lori Bruno, was in court this week to request a “protective order” against Christian Day. According to the reports, Sforza has accused Day of repeatedly harassing her via the phone and in social media. Day denies these allegations calling the conflict a “business dispute” gone wrong. Outside of the courtroom, he told reporters that Sforza is lying and has repeatedly called him names in public spaces.

The judge, who was reportedly was “dismayed by the volume of late night calls,” granted Sforza the protective order. But Day has vowed to appeal the decision. And, as stated after the hearing, he offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he had made all of those calls. The local television news was at the hearing and posted a short clip. We are currently working on this story and will have more details in the coming week.

In Other News…

  • Starhawk will be doing a book tour February and March 2016. She will be working through a speakers’ agency called Aid and AbetThe tour will happen just a few weeks after the official release of her new novel City of Refuge. Starhawk said, “If you have connections with an institution that might want me to come, or if you think you might want to organize something in your area, please contact Jen Angel: jen@aidandabet.org.” Starhawk added that she prefers small bookstores and university settings.
  • The Luna Press has released its 2016 Lunar Calendar “dedicated to the Goddessin her many guises.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of the calendar’s publication. The first one was produced in 1975 and has continued ever since. Today’s edition includes 23 artists, poets, and writers. Publisher Nancy Passmore said, “The art for this year’s 40th cover is about keeping ones’ moon boat afloat …” and was created by Jamie Hogan. Older covers and ordering information are on the publisher’s website.
1989 Cover Art of the Lunar Calendar

1989 Cover Art of the Lunar Calendar

  • Many people within our communities were interviewed by mainstream media during the October month. In article for Broadly Magazine, Ashley Mortimer, who is a Doreen Valiente Foundation Trustee and Director of the Centre for Pagan Studies was asked to comment on the work of Margaret Murray. The article, titled “The Forgotten Egyptologist and First Wave Feminist who Invented Wicca,” discusses Murray’s life, her influence on Gardner and the problematic place her work in Wicca’s history. Mortimer concludes, “It actually does not matter whether, or to what extent, Murray was right or wrong or that Gerald Gardner made it up or not … The system that was developed works for its purpose, which is religious and spiritual development. And that, in itself, is enough.”
  • Wild Hunt columnist Eric O. Scott authored an article for the religion news forum On Faith. This article, titled “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Wicca,” was published on Oct 30. Scott is a second generation Pagan, who was raised in a Wiccan family. He writes, “The Halloween season invites many questions from people outside of Wicca about the nature of our religion. Some of those questions are things that even I didn’t have a good answer for, despite having been involved with Wicca since the day I was born.” Scott goes on to detail ten points about Wicca and its religious culture. The piece is unique in that it not only presents an un-sensationalized view point on Wicca within a mainstream media forum, but it was written by someone who has practiced the religion, as he said, “since the day he was born.”
  • Are you having Halloween withdrawl already? Go to Timeout‘s website and look over the dramatic photography from “Edinburgh’s Celtic Halloween ritual Samhuinn.” The twenty images show the Beltane Fire Society’s re-enactment of traditional rituals. As the report says, “Samhuinn is a riot of tribal drumming, pyrotechnics, body paint and symbolic, often violent street theatre.” The Beltane Fire Society is a “a community arts performance charity that hosts the Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.” In 2012, writer Rynn Fox looked at the society and how they create these community rituals.
  • Finally, Pagan singer Misha Penton published her most recent music video, titled “The Captured Goddess.” Penton’s voice is classically trained and, in this video, she is accompanied by a solo piano, a viola, and the music of Dominick DiOrio. The song is inspired by the 1914 Amy Lowell poem of the same name.

That’s it for now! Have a great day!

Column: Many Gods West

Heathen Chinese —  August 22, 2015 — 19 Comments

Acknowledgement and thanks to the spirits of the land and the water, to the Nisqually and other Coast Salish-speaking peoples on whose sovereign land we were uninvited guests, to my ancestors, to my gods, and to the ancestors and deities and other allies of the humans at the conference. Thanks to my friend and traveling companion. Thanks to all those who showed me hospitality and friendship, and to the organizers of the conference: Niki Whiting, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and Rhyd Wildermuth.

The Many Gods West (MGW) gathering was held at the Governor Hotel in Olympia, Washington from July 31st to August 2nd. Over the course of the weekend, 180 humans attended, along with innumerable gods and spirits and crows and other kinds of beings. The conference included twenty presentations, nine public rituals, a keynote address by Morpheus Ravenna, a musical and terpsichorean performance at a local venue, open hours at Skaði’s shrine in one of the hotel rooms, and a communal shrine accessible at most points throughout the day. As at any gathering, many private conversations were held as well, alliances were strengthened, previously separate threads of thought and experience were woven together.

many gods west
Many attendees and presenters have written about their experiences at MGW, or published the texts of their presentations.
These individual accounts are shards in a mosaic-in-progress, strands of wool on a spindle. There are patterns at play here, subterranean and subcutaneous, a fluid and shifting battle formation…if one is trained to notice such things.

The opening ritual was entitled “Many Lands, Many Ancestors, Many Gods, Many People/s.” Similarly to Reclaiming’s practice of mingling the Waters of the World, participants were invited to approach the communal shrine and pour water from a source near their home into a large basin. Soil from the many localities participants had traveled from were similarly mixed in another bowl. Each and every person has some sort of relationship with their local land and water, whether they recognize that relationship or not. This section of the opening ritual was intended to acknowledge and honor those relationships.

Any gathering is likely to be attended by a significant number of people who live in close geographical proximity to the gathering’s location: the logistics of travel dictate this. However, while individuals did travel from the Midwest and the East Coast and other regions to attend, this gathering’s very name reflected a deliberate intention to focus on the West Coast. The concept of “regional cultus” is being discussed in polytheist circles currently. “The West Coast” is a broad term, and certainly contains many smaller regions within it. The entire coast, however, is now united by the shared experience of heatwave and drought and wildfire. As those who live here know, however, from the ashes, new growth springs: a proliferation of new regionalisms, praying for transformation like the knobcone pine, resilient like the manzanita and the madrone.

A fallen madrone (also called madrona or arbutus) provided the wood for the figures which enshrined the ancestors of the conference attendees. Figures carved with faces enshrining Female, Male, Gender-variant, Warrior and Spirit-worker ancestors were passed around the room, allowing each participant who wished to the opportunity to honor their own ancestors in these various categories personally. Meanwhile, the room resounded and reverberated with the song, “Ignis corporis infirmat; ignis sed animae perstat” (“the Fire of the body diminishes; but the fire of the soul endures!”). The Ancestors Of And In The Land and the Dead Who Are Not Yet Ancestors were honored on the communal shrine as well, though their figures were not passed around the room.

Last, but certainly never least in a room full of polytheists, individuals were able to enshrine images of deities and other spirits they have relationships with on the communal shrine. The key word, as ever, is “relationship.” Morpheus Ravenna’s keynote address, entitled “Deep Polytheism: On the Agency and Sovereignty of the Gods,” reiterated this theme with the grace of poetry and the force of a smith’s hammer or a chieftain’s axe. Not just any archetypal “smith,” or any archetypal “chieftain,” however. Morpheus took care to introduce Goibniu and the Dagda—two gods she has devotional relationships with—to her audience, and to tell stories about their individual personalities and pasts, pointing out that “Living beings don’t just exist, they have stories. They have an origin, they come from somewhere in particular, and they experience an arc of change.”

And of course, they exert change upon the world as well. The mark of the Dagda’s axe can be seen in the cleft of every oak in Ireland. Morpheus argued that the gods leave similar marks on the landscapes of our psyches: “Even when we think the Gods are gone, Their marks on us remain. We ourselves are a map shaped and carved by Their memory.” But human beings have our own agency and sovereignty as well, and Morpheus eloquently wove this deeper understanding of reciprocity into her description of what “true relationship” might look like:

In being another of the peoples that have worshiped, fed and sung songs to Them, we become part of Their stories. This is what comes from engaging with the Gods on this level. This is true relationship. […] They become part of our story. We begin seeking to create a story together, a shared future.

One story, one shared future, found its roots deep in the blood-soaked battlefields of ancient Gaul and the beginning of a new chapter in a dimly lit room at Many Gods West. Three members of the Coru Cathubodua, Morpheus and Brennos and Rynn, conducted a ritual in honor of the Gaulish goddess for whom their priesthood is named. After Cathubodua, the Battle Crow, was worshiped through polyphonic song and offering, those individuals who were called received the Warrior’s Mark from her priestesses and priest. A call “aims at those who can hear it.” That is its power. There is another power in standing and bearing witness, as many of those present at the ritual chose to do. As Rhyd Wildermuth said, “meaning is never a solitary act.”

mgw communal shrine

MGW Community Shring [Photo Credit: Finnchuill]

Rhyd’s talk on “meaning” began with a rejection of the concept of absolute Truth, which, Midas-like, fatally corrupts all that it touches: “Looking for the material being-ness of a thing, rather than its tapestry of meaning, is to destroy it.” For example, a body undergoing vivisection—a cruel name, as it quickly turns into the dissection of a corpse: “What are you, really, when we get to your core existence? A dead and dis-membered pile of bloody muscle and gore.” Better to recognize that “There was [and is] no Truth, only potential meaning.”

Heimlich A. Laguz’s lecture, “Dreaming, Death, and Memory: Sketches for a Heathen Cosmology,” based upon his 2010 essay in Hex Magazine, touched upon the concept of “dis-memberment” during the same time slot that Finnchuill spoke about the history of “disenchantment” and the practice of reenchantment. Their presentations were held in adjacent rooms, in fact. Heimlich utilized a pun to highlight the subtle relationship between “dis-memberment” and memory, “When we re-member the essence of this dis-membered world we discover that death and life are one.”

Heimlich began by pointing out that the Germanic cosmological concept of the World Tree does not exist in some sort of independent stasis, but is watered by “the wells of Urd (Past), Mimir (Memory), and Hvergelmir (the ‘bubbling cauldron’ from which the rivers of the world arise and beside which the death-dragon Nidhogg dwells).” As a living system, the newly-created memories of the present necessarily flow “back down into the wells again to create new layers of history.”

Within this dynamic ecological cycle, death is a source of fertility, and it is memory that “has the power to carry the dead back into the world of the living.” Heimlich told the story of the shepherd Hallbjorn, who slept many nights upon the grave mound of the poet Thorleif, with the intention of writing a poem about Thorleif, though his skills in that area were few. Eventually, Thorleif appeared to Hallbjorn in a dream and taught him how to write poetry. Heimlich pointed out that “poetry is a force of unfettered life and excitation, and the idea that it could be sought through necromantic communication is potent and fascinating.” Furthermore, sleep is associated with death, and Hallbjorn learned poetry in a dream. With such connections as these (and many more), Heimlich deftly tied together the three major themes of his lecture.

Death and memory were also powerful forces behind Sean Donahue’s talk on “The Rattling at the Gates: The Dead as Allies in Resistance,” subsequently typed up and titled “Restoring Life to Death.” Sean spoke of two kinds of death: one beautiful and life-nourishing, and the other untimely and traumatic. He spoke of the salmon dying after they spawn: “Like sacred kings, their bodies and their blood nourish the land.” He spoke of the salmon dying this year before they spawn, slain by the drought and the heat. Those killed before their time are restless, denied the beauty of dignified death, prevented from moving on.

Sean quoted his Colombian friend Hector Mondragon: “Hector said “My murdered compañeros were killed twice . . .” once by bullets or machetes or bombs, and once by a world that refused to acknowledge their lives and their deaths.” He spoke of the importance of recognition and memory: “Witnessing and remembering are the beginning of restoring sacredness to the death around us to enable it to feed new life.” Morpheus used similar language during her speech, “the 20th century had already forgotten that the Gods are alive.” But some people never forgot, and others are now waking from amnesia into the dream of remembrance.

Once forgotten, but still alive, still powerful, and newly resurgent, splendid in their beauty: the Matronae, “a collective of indigenous Germanic and Celtic goddesses who were worshipped syncretically in the Roman Empire,” honored in a devotional ritual led by their priestesses River Devora and Rynn Fox. A well was set up in the middle of the room, filled with water from Olympia’s Artesian Well, surrounded by roses and other flowers. Libations of goat’s milk were poured. Singing, dancing: “Mothers of victory, Matronae. Mothers of the tribes, Matronae.” Oracular trance, messages both for the group and for individual petitioners. Wishes made on pennies, tossed into the well. Weaving.

These words you’re reading now? Merely a thin and tiny thread in a vast tapestry.

The various report-backs on MGW delighted in using the word “many” in their titles. But while there are “many” experiences to be remembered, there is also “more,” for relationship is a continual, ongoing process. There is more work to be done, there are more battles to be fought.

It was recently announced that writer and teacher Rachel Pollack was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Pollack is one of the world’s leading authorities on the Tarot and has written numerous books on the subject, as well as many fiction novels. In addition, she is a respected comic book writer who, according to one report, gave DC Comics its first transgender character in the Doom Patrol series. Pollack’s next book, a novel titled The Child Eater, is due to be released in July.

In addition, Pollack is a regular and welcome presenter at the annual PantheaCon conference in San Jose. In 2012, she offered a class called “Tarot–Prophecy, Catastrophe, and Rebirth.” In 2013, her talk was titled, “Who are the Gods and Goddesses of Tarot and How Do We Honor Them.”

On May 6, Charles Hale began a GoFundMe campaign to help cover Pollack’s medical bills. He wrote, “Living with cancer can be expensive, even with health insurance. Because Rachel is too sick to work, she needs help paying medical and living expenses. Anyone that has known anyone with cancer knows how expensive even the most basic care and medication can be.” In just five short days, the campaign has raised nearly $16,000 dollars of the $25,000 requested.

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conway PPDIn March, we reported that the Conway Pagan Pride Day (CPPD) had run up against significant problems that threatened its future. The new Arkansas-based organization had just hosted its first Pride Day in October. The event was reportedly very successful. However, in the following months, the town of Conway instituted new ordinances that prohibited vendors from selling on city park property. Because the group does not have the means to rent private, more expensive facilities, CPPD organizers were fearful that they would not be able to host a 2015 event.

This past week, CPPD happily announced that the issues have been resolved, and Pagan Pride Day will be held on October 24. The organization reported that “Conway’s current mayor was an advocate for us and gave us voice in the political arena. We are so fortunate to have the support of the area and beyond the borders of Conway, Arkansas.”

In an email to The Wild Hunt, organizers explained, “Arkansas at times can be difficult to navigate in terms of beliefs and support,” pointing to the perception that the state is inhospitable to Pagans. However, they stressed that they have seen the opposite in this struggle, with interfaith groups, government, law enforcement, food banks and residents, helping them in their cause. CPPD added, “There is a new hope for the community in Arkansas. It takes one brick at a time, but as a family we will lay the foundation for generations to come.”

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10858593_10153030684777552_6867534241222027502_nThis past weekend marked the return of the Pagan Festival in Berkeley, California. Hosted by the Bay Area Pagan Alliance, the event hasn’t been held since 2012. After a three year hiatus, the organization revived it for 2015.

Held in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park, the festival was themed “Spirituality through Service” and featured the 2012 Keeper of the Light, T. Thorn Coyle, ritually passing the staff and lantern to the 2015 Keeper, Crystal Blanton. The Pagan Alliance explains that “The magical intention of the passing of the staff and gifting of the lantern is to lend strength and support to Priestess Crystal Blanton to enable her to continue her work –not only for our Pagan community, but all of the communities she serves throughout the Bay Area– and to do this work in good health, integrity, prosperity, and love.”

Throughout the day, current and past Keepers spoke including Blanton, Coyle, M. Macha Nightmare, and Yeshe Matthews Rabbit. In addition, there were performances, dances, talks, book signings, vendors and more. The event was reported to be a huge success. On her blog, Annika Mongan wrote about her own experiences from the day, saying, “To me the festival was a celebration of the beauty of our community, a call to action, a promise of renewal, and a testimony to our city that we are here, we care, we invoke Justice and in service to this city, the Bay Area, and beyond.

 In Other News:

  • The Pagan Community Statement on the Environment now has 3,630 signatures, hailing from all over the world. In addition, the statement has been translated, to date, into six languages, with more in the works. People of many religions have digitally signed the document, including a variety of Pagans, Heathens, and Polytheists, as well as non-affiliated people and even Christians. Organizers are aiming for 10,000 signatures by mid-summer.
  • Writer and artist Gypsey Teague unexpectedly found her latest book listed as a “top summer pick” for 2015. On May 3, New York Daily News published its buying guide, “Summer cool new books and hot summer looks for a smart summer.”  In the “young adult” section, Teague’s book, titled The Witch’s Guide to Wands: A Complete Botanical, Magical, and Elemental Guide to Making, Choosing, and Using the Right Wand, made runner-up. Ironically, the book that beat it out for first place is a young adult novel titled, The Witch Hunter.
  • In another mainstream news article, Four Quarters Farm was featured for its unique community. The Washington Post wrote about the sanctuary the article, “The 250-acre church nurturing faith and free spirits in the foothills of Pennsylvania.” The Post included a large number of photos depicting daily life and worship at the sanctuary. Readers might remember Four Quarters from its March 30 announcement of the purchase of an additional 110-acres of land.
  • Ian Corrigan’s blog, Into the Mound, has moved to the Patheos Pagan Channel. After eight years of blogging independently, he joins the group of respected bloggers who make up the Patheos forum. In his first post, Corrigan wrote, “There will be a bit of a jar for me, as we move from that comfy burrow to new digs, and I hope many of my long-time readers will find this new setting pleasant. Please bear with me as I  ken the new platform’s formatting, and learn to make pretty posts.”
  • Coru Cathubodua and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus have announced that they will be teaming up to host an online course called, Poetic Ways: Cultivating the Practice of Filidecht. The four month course, starting in July, will include “basic fili poetic practices, history, and arts, including poetry, prophecy, extemporaneous song, and much more.” Information and registration is currently live and online on Coru Cathubodua’s website.

That’s it for now.  Have a great day!

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. Our hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started! 

coru

The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood issued a statement last week on “Hospitality and Safety.” It begins, “Everyone should feel and be safe. Creating a welcoming, safe, supportive, inclusive, consent-based space for all peoples is just one of the necessary ways hospitality must manifest in today’s society so that all people everywhere may thrive in safety. It’s our responsibility to leave this world better than we inherited it through mindful, thoughtful, and heart-filled care and stewardship.”

The purpose of the statement is to provide attendees of any Coru Cathubodua sponsored event with a clear understanding of the organization’s stance on expected behavior within that space. This includes “events, conference hospitality suites and temple spaces.” The statement reads, “We have an individual and shared responsibility to guard against behaviors that demean or otherwise harm individuals.” They also added that anyone who violates this policy within one of their spaces will be asked to leave. The statement was hanging in the organization’s PantheaCon hospitality suite this past weekend.

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Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

Last week, Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried challenged the accuracy and ethics behind an article written by Joseph Laylock for Religion Dispatches. After reading Laylock’s article on the Icelandic temple, Seigfried contacted the publisher with concerns of plagiarism. In a tweet, editor Evan Derkacz responded curtly, which Seigfried took as a challenge to prove his point. He did so in a blog post published Feb. 4, which included accusations of plagiarism and the misrepresentation of minority religions.

On Feb. 11, Religion Dispatches (RD) responded by editing Laylock’s article and including a note that says, “RD regrets the errors.” Some of the other changes included the adding of credits to photographs, hyperlinks and text citations. Seigfried also notes that RD removed the quotations around “faith of their own.” He considered this a win for his own work, and for Heathenry, in terms of media representation.

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alabama

On Feb. 9, marriage equality arrived in the conservative southern state of Alabama. Despite legalization, the issue has remained contentious with state judges and entire counties openly ignoring the new law. According to the Huffington Post, a federal judge had to remind any defiant counties that same-sex marriage was in fact law. Over the week more counties did begin to comply. To date 43 of 67 counties are issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Despite these hostilities, the Alabama Pagan community has not only been celebrating the legalization but openly supporting and enforcing it. Priestess Lilith Presson, a Birmingham resident who is performing marriage ceremonies in a public park, was featured in an article in Al.com. She told the reporter, “It’s about time we had marriage equality …There are a few people stomping their feet because they don’t want people to be treated equally as humans.Tough.” Similarly, in the Auburn area, Dr. Katharyn Privett-Duren is doing her part. She said, “In response to some of the fear and anxiety that several couples expressed at public ceremonies, I offered the privacy of my land for officiations.” The struggle is ongoing, and we will be following this story closely as Alabama Pagans continue to work publicly to ensure their government upholds the new law.

In Other News:

  • A new survey, titled “Sons and Daughters of the Northern Tradition: A Survey for Contemporary Heathens,” is being conducted by Amsterdam University graduate student Josh Cragle. He is currently researching Germanic Paganism and asking for community help. Cragle wrote, “The survey is completely anonymous and will not be used for any malicious purposes, and is in no way meant to offend anyone. I would greatly appreciate your input. Thank you.”
  • The latest issue of Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies was just released. It includes articles written by Michelle Mueller, Kimberly D. Kirner, Morandir Armson, James R. Lewis and Dr. Gwendolyn Reece. The publication also contains a number of book reviews. As noted on the site, “The Pomegranate is the first International, peer-reviewed journal of Pagan studies. It provides a forum for papers, essays and symposia on both ancient and contemporary Pagan religious practices.”
  • The Order of Bards Ovates (OBOD) will be adding a new magazine to their publication list. The upcoming Druid Magazine “will feature articles, opinion pieces, and facilitate discussion on topics of interest to” members specifically living in the Americas. The editors are still in pre-production and are looking for contributing writers, layout and graphic designer and more. They ask anyone interested in contributing to contact them via their email at druidmagazine@druidry.org. OBOD other regionally-focused publications include Serpenstar (“Australasian & Oceanian”), Dryade (Dutch language), Il Calderone (Italian language), and the general Journal of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids.
  • Rhyd Wildermuth and Alley Valkyrie have written and published a “Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer.” Originally created to accompany their 2015 PantheaCon presentation focused on the same subject, the 32 page primer “presents a brief overview on Capitalism, why any Pagan should make beautiful war against it, and some suggestions on how to start fighting it.” Due to its popularity, the two writers have made it publicly available for download.
  • On Feb. 10, the Limavady Borough Council agreed that they would like to see the Manannan statue replaced. However, the Council has yet to decide how to fund it. According to resident Mari Ward, operator of the Facebook fan page Bring Back Manannan mac Lir, the council will spend the next month researching funding options and presenting their findings at the next meeting. Ward wrote, “In the meantime it is heartening to hear that it may be re-installed at some point.”
  • Over the past week, Huffington Post Live has featured panel talks focusing on attitudes toward sex and sexuality within various religious cultures. On Feb. 14, the site posted “Pagans Discuss The Truth About The Role Of Sex In Their Faith.” Included on the panel was Carol Queen, Blogger Black Witch, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, Rev. Amy Blackthorn, and Author Lasara Firefox Allen. Black Witch has since written a blog post about the experience.
  • Steven Dillon, “a South Dakota based author who primarily works on researching and developing theoretical foundations for Pagan ideas,” released his first book called, A Case for Polytheism. Published by Moon Books, Dillon’s work has been described as “a thoughtful and incisive exploration of polytheist belief as a live option for modern people.”

That is it for now. Have a nice day.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. Our hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started! 

HUAR Banner [Courtesy Photo]

HUAR Banner [Courtesy Photo]

For Americans, today is Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday during which the country acknowledges and celebrates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Due to the current social and political climate, this year’s events have been or will be bigger, and far more poignant than in the past. Several Pagan and Heathen activists have indicated that they are participating in and even organizing public demonstrations, marches and vigils.

For example, on Friday morning, Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR), Solar Cross and Pagans United Against Racism together dropped a banner over the University Avenue footbridge in Berkeley. The banner contained Dr. King’s quote “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.” and included the hashtag #MLKalsosaid.

Today, HUAR, Solar Cross, Coru Cathubodua and other area Pagans will be joining a march in Oakland, California to “celebrate the radical legacy of Dr. King.” One of their banners reads “Pagans United for Justice” and “Will we be extremists for hate, or extremists for love? – MLK.” The march begins 10:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

According to the PNC Minnesota Bureau, Minnesota Pagans are joining a big #ReclaimMLK march being held in St. Paul at 1:00 pm CST today. Although the article doesn’t indicate any specific names, the groups attending will be marching together and holding signs. The article reads, “Words are wind and many Pagans hope to change that with action.”

[public domain]

[public domain]

In Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Pagan shop owner, Kristin West, is using her monthly “Witch’s Night” to honor King with a discussion on freedom. According to a news report, the popular themed meeting, which usually focuses on religious practice and the Craft, can draw up to 30 people from around the state. This month she changed directions, deciding to connect King’s work to her freedom to practice Witchcraft.  West said “If we didn’t have freedom of religion, we wouldn’t be here.

Others have been discussing or honoring King through their writing. For example, T. Thorn Coyle, who has been actively involved in the above California-based events, published a blog post titled “Disturbing the Peace.” The Humanistic Paganism blog offered a dedicated meditation in its post, “Beloved Community.VooDoo Universe writer Lilith Dorsey considers the complexities of historical remembrances and the honoring of Dr. King. The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel has published its official statement on the #blacklivesmatter movement. HUAR released a solidarity statement for “the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend actions.”

While King’s message and his life had a very specific purpose during a very tumultuous period in U.S. history, over time his message has been distilled down and come to permeate U.S. culture with a meaning that far exceeds the focused goals of that particular decade. In the wake of Ferguson, that message has returned with force, in many ways, to its origins, regaining a new vitality and forward momentum.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King:

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. – Dr. Martin Luther King, a Letter from Birmingham Jail

In Other News:

Alane Brown in Peru [Courtesy Photo]

Alane Brown in Peru [Courtesy Photo]

  • The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities, located in Iowa, has begun a new earth-based traditions program. According to reports, organizers kicked off the new program with a Yule Sabbat last month, and will continue with monthly meetings and eight yearly sabbat celebrations. Organizer Lana Long told reporters, “We are an umbrella for a little bit of everything — Pagan, Shamanism, Wiccan, etc. One of our goals is to offer a place for people like that to be able to meet in a community.”
  • Pagan Todd Bernston has launched a new “Relationship Survey that “explores and compares relational dimensions such as emotional bonding, anxiety, caregiving, and sexuality, between monogamous and consensual non-monogamous couples.” Bernston is a couple’s therapist who “does a lot of work with couples in non-traditional relationships, such as polyamory and consensual non-monogamy.”  He said that many past studies have not adequately looked at the bonds in non-traditional relationships.  He hopes that “the results [will] help shape our cultural and therapeutic understanding of the growing number of couples who are involved in non-traditional relationship styles.”  The survey is online at Relationship Study.

That is it for now.  Have a nice day!

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Priestess and activist T. Thorn Coyle and over 100 others made local news when they showed up at the inauguration of Oakland’s 50th Mayor, Libby Schaaf. The peaceful protest, organized by a coalition of area groups and individuals, is another example of the ongoing #blacklivesmatter grass roots campaign and actions demanding social reform.

[Photo Credit: Kim Beavers]

[Photo Credit: Kim Beavers]

“There is … a long history of corruption and misconduct in the [Oakland Police Department,] so much so that they’ve been threatened with federal receivership. Oakland has also played host to Urban Shield, a convention and training event that is a large part of the militarization of police in the U.S. By protesting at the inauguration, we wanted people to remember that as long as Black lives in our county are treated as if they aren’t sacred … there will be no business as usual,” explained Coyle.

In recent months, she has become actively involved in an organization called Anti Police-Terrorism Project (APTP). This organization is part of a larger group called the O.N.Y.X. Organizing Committee, which is “committed to raising the consciousness of Black people to facilitate the healing of our bodies’ minds and spirits in order to create sustainable, just, equitable and thriving Black communities.”

Coyle told The Wild Hunt, “I’ve been active in justice movements for most of my life, trying to find ways to best support building communities of love, equity, and justice. After my first APTP meeting, I felt lit up inside rather than drained. I thought, ‘Here is a group that has potential to actually do effective action!’ It is diverse coalition under Black leadership, which I really appreciate.”

Molly Costello being interviewed.  [Photo Credit: Alan Blueford Center for Justice]

Mollie Costello being interviewed. [Photo Credit: Alan Blueford Center for Justice]

In a Monday press release, APTP spokespersons Cat Brooks and Mollie Costello explained that their goal was to send a message to Mayor Libby Schaaf, reminding her that she will “be held accountable by communities demanding justice for victims of police violence.” During an interview, Costello explained the local context behind the protest. For those outside of Oakland, Brooks summarized the problem by simply stating, “Schaaf does not have the best record in dealing with police relations with the community.”

The scheduled protest was divided into two distinct parts. The initial event was a silent gathering outside the Paramount Theater. Protesters were asked to wear black and signs were passed out. Coyle was there along with a number of other Bay Area Pagan and Heathen activists, including Solar Cross Temple member Rhiannon Laakso; Coru Cathubodua members Patrick Garretson and Brennos Agrocunos, as well as Kim Beavers, who was documenting the entire event. Coyle said also she saw many others from the local Pagan community.

They all stood in solidarity with APTP and with the other organizations involved. At one point, a protester tweeted that there were in fact more protesters outside the theater than guests waiting to attend the inauguration.

When the theater doors opened, some of the protesters went inside for the second part of the scheduled action. During the silent presentation of the colors, Coyle began singing an old union song, “Which side are you on?” As she explained, “The song was adapted by a group in St. Louis who did this action that we modeled ours after.” APTP changed the words from “justice for Mike Brown” to “justice for Black lives.” There actions were video documented and posted on You Tube.

Coyle said, “The MC panicked and quickly called the national anthem singer onto the stage with his mic. So we ended up singing and doing a banner drop through the anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, which seemed fitting.” The banner, which was dropped from the mezzanine read, “End Police Terror.”

After the event, the APTP spokespersons called the event “beautiful,” saying that they welcomed the new mayor in “true Oakland style.” Mayor Schaaf had little reaction to the protesters except to tell an ABC reporter,”I embrace protest. Protest is part of Oakland’s DNA.”

After a few rounds of the song inside the theater, Coyle led the protesters outside still singing. In retrospect, she said that recent national and local events have changed her, adding “I had to find more ways to speak out and work against government harassment, profiling, imprisonment, and killings of Black and brown people. My writing is one way. Interfaith work is another. Organizing with APTP is rapidly becoming another.” She added, “We are in the midst of a new civil rights movement. The chance to say, loudly, that Black Lives Matter, is one that I, who preaches that all life is sacred, and that the Gods and Goddesses are reflected in our eyes, cannot pass up.”